Johnson Finds Winning Culture at NYCFC

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by CHRISTIAN ARAOS

After two trades, Sean Johnson landed in New York City. Technically moving twice in the same day, Johnson was dealt from the Chicago Fire to Atlanta United then on to New York City FC where he was the starting goalkeeper in the opening day loss last Sunday. He said moving from place to place is par for the course for a player in Major League Soccer.

“As far as the league’s structured, these trades happen all the time with players,” Johnson said. “I was with Chicago and talking with their general manager [Nelson Rodriguez] reflecting on the past year and obviously the trade happened and then the trade to New York City. The details, I don’t think are proper for me to speak on, but at the end of the day, that’s the management side.”

Any player in MLS can be traded to another club at any point within the league’s two transfer windows. No-trade clauses or “commitments,” in the words of a league source who was describing the contract of former New York City midfielder Mix Diskerud, are rare. In the rest of the world players can decide which club they join. Johnson said that the lack of control makes him focus on what he can control.

“Every situation is different and at the end of the day, you don’t know what’s going to happen for the most part,” he said. “What you can control is how you play and your environment. How you approach every single day and what your attitude is. I think how you control that is the most important thing in the league and in life. For me, it’s not really that big of a worry what the structure is. As players, we sign contracts and you’ve got to be aware of what those contracts are. I’m happy where I am now at New York City and for me there’s no issue with how I ended up where I ended up.”

Johnson has the opportunity to work with goalkeeping coach Rob Vartaughin once again. The two were together when Johnson was with the United States U23 national team. Johnson said he was lucky to work with Vartaughn again and has already been talking with him on setting goals for the 2017 season.

“I’m definitely looking forward to improving my goalkeeping,” Johnson said. “You always look to get better, you always look to take your game to the next level. I believe he has a lot of things he’s brought to the table and a lot of things that will help my game to really get to where it needs to be.”

Johnson was unable to stop Orlando City’s lone shot on target last Sunday in a game New York City controlled but was unable to convert its chances. After the game, he said he could feel the team’s collective annoyance at not getting a result. It is those little things that he said were part of a “winning culture” in New York, one that did not exist in Chicago.

“It’s got to be your mentality,” Johnson said. “Everything you do has got to be with the end result in mind and that’s winning games and winning championships. If you’re not in the business of winning, you shouldn’t be a professional athlete. For me, everybody here has a passion to win. Being surrounded by a team full of guys like that, it’s infectious.”